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Fishing the World – The Practice of Evangelism

For the audio teaching on these notes, click on:

Our third value of ‘Fishing the World’ for God is practiced as we live out our Kingdom vocation (calling) through our daily occupation (work). This naturally leads to our second priority and practice: EVANGELISM. If we are good news in our workplace, then we will be able (even invited) to speak the good news of Jesus. This teaching answers the What? and Why? of evangelism, and will introduce the How? to do evangelism.

WHAT is Evangelism? What is The Gospel?

English ‘evangelism’ comes from the Greek evangelion, with the root angelos, messenger or herald… of good news. Used of Greco-Roman generals and emperors, ‘messengers of joy’ ran to the ends of the Empire telling of their victories in battle, and the good news of the Emperor’s birth, enthronement and reign. Thus, evangelion referred not only to a) the messenger (evangelist) and b) the act of proclaiming the message (evangelising), but also to c) the message itself, called the Evangel – ‘The Gospel’ – the good news.

Seventy Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew (Old) Testament into Greek in 150 BC, called The Septuagint – read by Jesus and his first followers. The translators used the verb evangelizomai (to evangelise, proclaim) in Is 52:7-10: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace and salvation, who say to Israel, ‘Your God reigns!’” (also Is 40:9, 41:27, 61:1, Ps 96:2f)). Isaiah predicted, in 750 BC, that God’s end-time messengers will herald and proclaim the joyous good news of GOD’S REIGN: God will come in his Messiah-King to save the world by defeating evil in all its forms, and make all things new, and will rule and reign over the earth forever.

To proclaim that gospel was not only to announce a new era, it actually brought it about! In Hebrew thinking God himself speaks in the mouth of his messengers… and it’s done (Ps 33:6). I.e. there is a ‘power-encounter’ when we share/preach the gospel – what you say starts happening! Believe it! The gospel is charged with power! That is precisely why Paul said “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16; see Lk 12:8-9).

Jesus’ followers believed he was Messiah and they were his end-time messengers boldly proclaiming the long hoped-for fulfilment of the world’s longing for happiness and peace. Their gospel confronted and ended evil’s rule, literally saving people who believed, “faith comes by hearing the word of Messiah” (Rom 10:13-17). It wasn’t (only) a personal gospel of forgiveness of sins to enter heaven, which Dallas Willard calls a vampire gospel: “Hey Jesus, give me some of your blood that I may go to heaven when I die!” Their gospel was about eternal life here and now on earth in the all-encompassing good news of a new Emperor: the birth of King Jesus, who, in his ministry, death, resurrection and ascension (enthronement), overcame Satan, sin, sickness, demons and death (1 Cor 15:1-4). This changes, and will completely change reality at all levels: personally, socio-economically, politically, ecologically, and cosmically. God’s salvation is wholistic, and it’s simultaneously a now-event, a progressive process, and a future hope of its full reality!

Beware of the enticing false gospels in some sectors of church and society: social gospel, prosperity gospel, works-legalism, extreme grace, New Age, etc. When one aspect of the biblical gospel is preached as THE gospel, neglecting all other aspects, it becomes heresy. There’s only one true gospel given by Jesus to his apostles in the New Testament. Paul says, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:6-9, 2 Cor 11:4, Rom 1:1-5)

WHY do Evangelism?

If we’re not clear on WHY we do (are called to) evangelism, our motivation will be non-existent. Or we’ll have mixed motives as in making a name for ourselves, proud of ‘saving souls for Jesus’, meeting targets to grow our church, to overcome our guilt, etc. Here are 5 key biblical reasons that should motivate us to ‘fish’ (evangelise) people for God.

Because of who Jesus is: THE MESSIAH, the Saviour and Hope of the world. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, the way to God (Jn 14:6). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to us by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The clearer we see Jesus for who he really is, and the more we truly know him, the more we’ll be motivated to share THE good news with confidence and courage.

Because of who people are: LOST AND BROKEN IMAGE-BEARERS. Humans are a strange mix of great dignity and deep depravity. We’ve been radically ruined by evil, turned from the nobility of God’s likeness to the enslavement of Satan’s image-bearers (Jn 8:44). Jesus gave three parables of what it means to be LOST to God; then FOUND and reconciled, at home in the arms of God (Luke 15). Humans have inestimable value! God went to great lengths, even becoming one of us in his Son, to save us. The clearer we see people for who they are, as God sees them, the more we’ll be motivated to reach out with compassion.

Because of who we are: FOLLOWERS OF JESUS. We hear the gospel, put our faith in Jesus, and experience his salvation as event (born again, sins forgiven) and process (a growing transforming relationship) and hope (we’ll rise from the dead to rule and reign with Jesus over his new creation). Thus, because of our personal experience, knowing what God does for us, we joyously gossip the gospel! As the man born blind said, “one thing I know, I was blind but now I see!” (Jn 9:28, read this amazing story!) The more we experience Jesus and his salvation, the more we tell others about him with personal conviction.

Because of Jesus’ command: THE GREAT COMMISSION. “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15f). We are Jesus’ end-time messengers of salvation or judgement (depending on people’s response), fulfilling the Hebrew prophets, playing our God-given role in the history of salvation. We work with God, participating in the fulfilment of his plan and work in history! Followers of Jesus not only study his words, but practice them, obeying his command to evangelise with good conscience.

Ultimately, because of God’s love: “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD…” (Jn 3:16). Paul says, “I am compelled to preach; woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For Christ’s love compels me…” (1 Cor 9:16 cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15). The more we know God’s love for humanity, for ourselves personally – becoming God’s Beloved – the more we will share the good news of God’s great love in Jesus, out of genuine care and concern.

The first step in The How? is ‘Prayer Evangelism’ – prayer cards – more next week!

For Reflection and Group Discussion

– What do you understand by evangelism? Having read/heard this teaching, what has
changed in your view of what evangelism means?

– How do you define The Gospel and its contents – proclaimed by Jesus and his followers?

– Are you in any way ashamed of Jesus and The Gospel? How confident are you to share it?

– What motivates you, or demotivates you, to do evangelism? What do you think of the
biblical reasons I listed as why we must evangelise?

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